How to identify bad training habits and fix them

Avoid common training blunders

As a runner it’s easy to trot along with your training assuming that you’re doing everything right. Ironically, it’s often only when things start to go pear-shaped that bad training habits become glaringly obvious. Hindsight is always a wonderful thing isn’t it?! With that in mind here are some tips to help you identify potential training blunders before they happen.

Written by Louise Damen

Louise is a two-time England Cross Country Champion and a former European XC Trials winner. She has also represented GB at various international events and her marathon PB is 2:30:00.

 

Keep a training diary

Whether you’re an elite athlete or a casual competitor, a training diary is a fantastic tool for so many reasons. Not only does it serve as a great source of motivation when looking back at all the workouts that you’ve logged, it also enables you to objectively analyse why you are running well or maybe not so well. After each run record the distance and/or time completed, how you felt, plus any other relevant details such as the terrain, route and weather.

A good way to monitor how you’re feeling is a ‘traffic light’ system. Put a green dot in your diary on the days that you feel really good in training. Use an orange dot for those days that you feel okay or average and a red dot for those where you feel really tired or run down. If you find that you have three or more red dots in a row then you should take a few days of rest and review your training.


Review regularly

Once you are recording your training it’s a good idea to try and take a step back every four weeks or so for a review and ask yourself some questions. You may want somebody else to help you with this if you want to be more objective about it.

  • Is there too much repetition?

Perhaps you’ve reached a plateau with your performances in training or your racing results have been a little disappointing recently? Are you starting to lose motivation? If this is the case then it may be due to a lack of variety in your training programme. If you keep doing the same things then you will keep getting the same results. The body and the mind respond well to changes in training stimuli so why not spice up your training with something a little different? Try swapping your standard interval session for some fartlek or tempo work or even a hill workout for example.

  • Are you hitting the correct balance between training and recovery?

Elite athletes take their recovery very seriously. They have to because of the quality and quantity of training they do. However, just because you’re not logging the same training volumes as an elite athlete it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seriously consider whether you’re hitting the optimal balance between training stress and recovery. Perhaps you’ve been feeling tired and sluggish recently and have been unable to hit your desired pace in training? If this sounds like you then it could be that you’re not recovering adequately.

Ensure that you schedule regular recovery days into your schedule, particularly after hard workouts and races. Remember that stress outside of running can also significantly affect your ability to recover so if you may need to adjust your training load if you’re experiencing a lot of stress at work for example. Take a look at your nutrition too. Are you consuming adequate amounts of carbohydrate and protein before and after training?

Purposeful training

Without realising it, many runners spend far too much time in that ‘grey area’ when they’re training. That is they run too slowly to gain any real aerobic benefit but too fast to recover fully. If you’re guilty of this training sin then before you lace up your trainers ask yourself this; ‘What is the purpose of this run?’ If the answer is recovery, then make sure that you run slowly enough to allow just that.

Listen to your body

The human body is incredibly effective at giving you signs or indications that you need to slow down and rest. However, learning how to listen to your body is a hard skill to master, particularly for runners who are slaves to their training schedules! It’s perfectly normal to feel tired or have the odd ache or pain when you’re training. However, if these signs persist for several days or more then it’s time to pay attention to what your body is telling you.

This is where you need to be flexible and to make sensible and rational decisions about your training. Bury that desire to plough on regardless because it’s certainly not a sign of weakness to take some extra rest days if you need them. Remember, train smarter, not harder! 

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